We caught up with hip-hop artist Mecca aka Grimo at a recent TPS rally. TPS (Temporary Protected Status) is short-hand for a legal shield that allows immigrants to remain in the United States temporarily, while their home country recovers from natural disaster, or unrest. Haiti has seen plenty of both, but Haitians have never received the protection.
It’s one of many struggles on Mecca aka Grimo’s radar. His work reflects the hardships endured by Haitians here and at home, from poverty to kidnappings to deportation.
In this song, titled “Boat People,” he offers a tribute to the thousands of Haitians who have risked a watery grave to come to South Florida in flimsy, overcrowded boats.
Born in Brooklyn, of Haitian immigrants, Mecca aka Grimo grew up speaking Creole and French, but he says he didn’t always embrace his Haitian roots. That came later, sometime after he watched musician Wyclef, of the Fugees, wrap himself in the Haitian flag to receive a Grammy award.
“He’s proud to say he’s Haitian.. and it just inspired us to come out of our shell,” said Mecca aka Grimo. ”I got chills… the next day at school everyone was talking about Wyclef and Haiti.”
Mecca aka Grimo moved to Miami as a teenager– “This is the island that’s in the states”– and was soon rapping, writing poetry, and acting. He’s known to many Haitians for playing the head of a crime ring in the indie movie Kidnappings.
Outside his music, Mecca aka Grimo works as a substitute teacher, and lectures on Haitian history at public libraries. He’s also the founder of a non-profit group to teach children about substance abuse and conflict resolution.